The Sleeping Gypsy
Written by and Illustrated by: Mordicai Gerstein
Published by: Holiday House September 2016
Ages: 4 – 8 years
Theme: Wonder, Dreams, Art
Opening Lines: One night, Henri Rousseau dreamed of a girl walking alone across a desert.
Synopsis: (on amazon) A girl, alone in the desert, lies on the sand and sleeps. But she is not alone for long. A lizard, a rabbit, a turtle and other animals come to scrutinize her, and a lion leaps into the scene and claims her for his own.
A silhouette approaches from the distance. He introduces himself as Henri Rousseau, the dreamer of this dream, who plans to paint a picture of it. The animals pose for the artist but criticize his work with comments like “You’ve made my nose too big.” So the artist removes complainers one by one from the painting, until only the girl and the lion remain
Why I like this: Wow! This is truly a beautiful book. A story within a story – a dream within a dream. The characters in Henri Rousseau’s painting, The Sleeping Gypsy, produced in 1897, inspired Mordicai Gerstein to create an elegant, beautifully illustrated story about them. Mordical Gerstein imagines that the painter, Henri Rousseau, dreamt that he walked into a desert and came upon a number of wild animals and the girl sleeping with a mandolin by her side. How she got there? Why she is sleeping under the full moon in the desert? And what will the lion do, are questions answered by the imagination of Mordical’s version of events. The fact that Henri Rousseau is even there has meant he has stepped into his own painting. This is what Mordical imagines. Bizarre or amazing, it is all of those things and more. It sparks imagination and the concept of dreams realized. It highlights the fact that criticism cannot always be erased, but being critical of others can cause you to miss out on opportunities. What is left after all the animals have stated their thoughts is a beautiful illustration of a girl and a lion. A thought provoking and insightful story. Great for interesting children in fine art.
Resources/Findings: On this website is an audio of questions with answers and discussion by children regarding the painting… https://www.moma.org/collection/works/80172#
I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you. If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like minded authors and writers. Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon.
You find some amazingly unusual books, Diane. This looks extraordinary and beautiful.
Ha, yes it is extraordinary and the illustrations are what first made me pick it up at the library then I sat and read it while I was there and moved by the imagination, the many levels of theme and perspectives that had you wondering long after you put it down. Infact I didn’t put it down, instead I took it home with me to read again and again.. Wish I could write a story like that! Thanks for your comment Joanna.
I must agree with Joanna, you have found an amazing and unusual book, and I hope, hope, hope, my library owns a copy. This looks like quite a lovely story.
Thank you Leslie. I hope, hope, hope, you find a copy. Again thank you. It is gorgeous.
I am gobsmacked by this book. I just put a hold on it at the library. In poetry they call this type of imagining that is inspired by art, ekphrastic poetry. I must see if there’s a similar term for prose. Thank you for featuring this unusual book!
Thank you Jilanne. You are most welcome. So glad that you are able to obtain a copy to look at. It is remarkable and I have never heard of that term before. Enjoy!
How intriguing! A picture book based on an artist’s painting. I’d love to read this one.
Hi Andrea. I hope you are also able to obtain a copy at your local library. it is awesome.
What a fascinating story. I’ve got it on hold at the library. Thanks for highlighting this one Diane.
Your very welcome Maria. It is quite amazing. Enjoy!
What an interesting approach! Putting it on my list!
Thank you Beth. Hope you find it in your local library. Enjoy!
I love it when storytellers begin with a painting. Haven’t read this one yet, so thank you for sharing it.
Your welcome Sue. It is amazing how not only is it a story within a story but it is basically someone’s idea of the painter dreaming he stepped inside his own painting and told how it came about…. sort of! A dream within a dream too. 🙂